Author: Laura Jane Williams
Overview from Goodreads:
She’s single. But it can still be complicated…
Penny Bridge has always been unlucky in love.
So she can’t believe it when she meets a remarkable new man.
Followed by another.
And then another…
And all of them want to date her.
Penny has to choose between three. But are any of them The One?
The bestselling author of Our Stop will have you laughing, crying and cheering Penny on in this funny and feel-good exploration of hope, romance and the trust it takes to finally fall in love. Perfect for fans of Mhairi McFarlane’s If I Never Met You and Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare.
Penelope (“Penny”) Hermione Bridge is the chef and owner of her café, Bridges, in London. After beating cancer at 25, she’s found herself at 30 missing love. Her luck in the dating world hasn’t been that great, until she meets a pastry chef named Francesco. Could he be worth the chance or is he just like all the others before him? Penny’s past has suppressed her ability to trust in love and she has a hard time working through these issues. As a character, Penny is a walking contradiction as one minute she’s super dependent on those around her and the next she’s claiming she’s independent. Her character is a serious roller coaster and it’s almost impossible for every reader to draw the same conclusions as some will see her one way, but other readers will see her another way.
Penny’s one consistency throughout was the love and bond she shared with her family. Although her sister, Clementine, travels around the world for her job, the two of them keep in touch through voice notes. (The reasoning behind using voice notes is sweet once you find out the backstory.) It inspired me to try out some voice notes with my siblings instead of our usual texting. Although it wasn’t a main theme, it was one that shined through while reading and one that truly enjoyed. There were issues (minor ones) along the way, but the family always got through them together and it was very heart-warming.
Penny takes a chance on starting a relationship with Francesco and the two of them begin to form a relationship. Before things become official, Penny’s uncle suffers a health crisis which forces Penny to take a sabbatical from London and relocate to the countryside in Derbyshire to temporarily run her uncle’s restaurant, The Red Panda. As Penny does not want to endure the long distance, she and Francesco end their romantic relationship. While running the restaurant, Penny comes across suitors two and three. Thomas is a music agent for Lizzo (I really really really had a hard time with this as I just am beyond curious why the author chose Lizzo and not a made up artist – especially given how close Thomas is to his artist – it seemed distracting to the story as naming a real life artist just didn’t seem necessary). Our last suitor is Priyesh, an older gentleman, who happens to supply the wine to the restaurant.
Penny dates both of these other suitors and soon Francesco makes his way back in the picture. With feelings for three different men who all have their pluses and minuses, Penny must try and choose which one will truly make her happy. As a reader, you will definitely have your favorite that you prefer, even if he’s not the one Penny ends up with. For me, I felt that the connections were all over the place and because we spend most of the first part of the novel with Francesco, the reader is skewed towards him when Thomas or Priyesh should’ve been given more time. Thomas and Priyesh’s portions all felt rushed so it was hard to form the same connection with them that you do with Francesco. When I read the description of the novel, I thought it was going to be equal between the three men and the reader could then compare each equally rather than have almost an entire novel dedicated to only one of them. Every time I turned a page, I kept anticipating the second suitor to show up so it just frustrated me at times.
The cast of side characters are what add dimension to this story and were very entertaining. I loved Sharon, Penny’s best friend, as she just brought levity and heart to any paragraph she was mentioned. Charlie was a fantastic addition as they (a gender fluid individual) gave representation where novels typically leave them out. Not only that, but Charlie was witty and was a great sounding board for the characters at the Red Panda. Clementine and her wife Rima were great additions to, although you don’t get to know Rima that well. You also of course have Uncle Dave, the owner of the Red Panda restaurant, and his husband Eric. These side characters were interesting and helped keep the story going, especially during the times where the main story seemed to drag a bit. The only issue with the side characters is that they exist in the story as supporting roles for Penny and it’s difficult to see them as multi-dimensional when their interactions all revolve around the main character.
The writing itself flowed well as it was easy to understand and the word choices were relatable to real world type use. The pace of the story is a little hard to accept as it felt unbalanced as it was slow where it should have been sped up and faster where it should have taken more time. The author’s other novel, Our Stop, was slow in the beginning and then picked up. This novel had the opposite problem as it was extremely captivating in the beginning, lost my interest a little towards the middle-end, and then picked up slightly to reach the conclusion.
Despite all my negatives, I did actually enjoy the story and think others should give it a try. I don’t think it would be on my list of re-reads any time soon, but it is one that I’m glad I took a chance on. The banter is a huge positive and there are many heart-warming moments to help balance out the more serious undertones. To any future reader, I would say to read this novel with an open-mind and not to go in with too high of expectations as I feel that I was biased and expected one type of story going into reading and this certainly was not it. Maybe if I didn’t think about it before reading, perhaps my final opinion would be different. Overall, I think this writer deserves a chance so I will be reading her next novel, The Lucky Escape, in summer of 2021!
** Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for my copy of this novel. Opinions expressed are completely my own.**